Below is my birth story.
I made specific decisions about how I would manage my birth plan and I detail why I made those decisions. My justifications aren’t meant as judgment towards other women who’ve made different choices with their pain management. My life philosophy is that each woman has a right to her own care decisions and that decision is what is right for her. What you are reading is my personal experience, so please do not take this as the correct/right way to give birth because there isn’t one.
If you have any questions about your own experience, please consult your healthcare professional.
There was one thing I wasn’t looking forward to before and during my pregnancy: giving birth. Prior to pregnancy, I liked the idea of being pregnant, but I couldn’t wrap my mind around the potential pain and process of giving birth. All the changes my body would go through, the recovery… it was overwhelming to contemplate.
I heard about was how unmanageable the pain was and how I would be begging for an epidural until staff gave me one. Media and sex education drilled it into my head that giving birth would be the worst pain a woman would experience in her life.
When I saw my friends begin down the path of motherhood, I always asked how it went afterward because I was curious if their experience matched up with the narrative I created in my head. It scared me into holding off having children for several years. But when we decided to start our family, I’d have to get over my fear of giving birth.
Whenever I am in the dark about something, I research all that I can about it.
I go overboard trying to understand the ins-and-outs of a situation so I can make an informed decision or opinion on the matter. Because I had no clue what labor would look like, I took a month-long class with Ash about the whole birthing process: from the first contraction to the final push, I learned about the whole process and what to expect.
Because this was a “natural birthing” class, they were going to cover all the options for handling the pain without interventions and they also leaned against using any form of pain management intervention for the mother. They didn’t flat out say “don’t get an epidural” but they did make a point to highlight all that happens to the labor process and the baby when a mother gets one.
According to the class:
Getting an epidural would slow down the contractions which would drive the staff to administer Pitocin (induction drugs) which would speed up the labor, but then cause more pain for the mother; which would mean the mother would need more epidural; which would slow down the contractions…It would be a tiring loop that would drive the mother and the hospital to perform an unnecessary C-Section.
The epidural would also cause the baby to be sluggish after birth, lowering their APGAR score and interfere with the bonding because the baby would only want to sleep.
Finally, they said taking drugs would interfere with my own recovery and increasing my chances of having post-partum depression because I hadn’t allowed the natural hormones do their work to “protect” my body. *
*Please do not take these statements to be my personal belief on the matter. I am merely repeating what I was told whether it is good science or not. It is important to highlight the information I had prior to giving birth to understand why I made certain decisions.
Despite my fears about pain, I wanted to attempt a medication-free birth which is why I selected the class at a friend’s suggestion. Another friend mentioned that had she gone the entire labor without an epidural (the nurses missed the fact that the line fell out and all the medicine was leaking into the bed) she probably would have handled it fine because she would have been used to the pain.
Doing independent research outside of the class, I couldn’t find a reason to disagree with attempting it medication-free from the beginning. I looked at giving birth like running a marathon (something I want to do someday): if I approach it prepared and pace myself, I could do it.
At the end of the pregnancy, it became a competitive goal for myself: to see how long I could last without needing pain medication and if I could do the entire birth medication-free. I had it in my mind that if I could handle giving birth without medication, then I could do anything I put my mind to – no obstacle would ever be insurmountable. We still decided on having the birth in a hospital: I wanted to have the option to get an epidural if I found that the pain was too much.
The two biggest concerns I had which overruled my fear of the pain:
- I have vaso-vagal syncope with needles. This means anytime I have a needle or IV catheter in for an extended period of time, I faint. While I knew I would be distracted by the task at hand, I was too afraid of needing “unnecessary” lines attached to my body and interfering with my ability to stay calm (or even conscious) through the process. I wanted to limit the amount of poking and prodding I would need in an already stressful situation.
- I have issues with depression and I wanted to give my body as much of a chance naturally to combat the possibility of postpartum depression (PPD). I had heard prior to the class that medication-free births were linked to lowering my chances, but doing a simple Google search now shows that medication-free births are linked to increasing PPD. I obviously went with the information I had at the time.
During this month, I signed us up for other classes that were offered at the hospital: breastfeeding, baby care, and hospital tour. I came to each and every class with a list of questions that could be answered online, but I wanted to hear it directly from a human.
To make up for my aggressive need for information and detailed birth plan, I made sure to bring a box of snacks as thanks for the nurses when I came in to deliver.